Man with Irish links listed among Isis fighters

Algerian-Irish citizen profiled in Islamic State documents leaked by defector last month

Cache of leaked documents obtained by international media contains 11,000 leaked files with 4,600 individual records of Islamic State fighters. Photograph: Reuters

Cache of leaked documents obtained by international media contains 11,000 leaked files with 4,600 individual records of Islamic State fighters. Photograph: Reuters


An Algerian-Irish citizen is among thousands of foreign fighters listed among Islamic State recruits in a cache of leaked documents obtained by international media.

Documents from an Islamic State training camp contain a profile of a 43-year-old, referred to only by his nom-de- guerre Abu Hamza al Muhajir, who described himself as Algerian-Irish.

In response to questions on a standardised form, he said he was married, in good health and worked in media. He spoke French and English and had “understanding of explosives and state media”, according to the document.

The file is undated, but the bulk of the documents were produced between early 2013 and late 2014. They were leaked to Sky News and other media by a defector from Islamic State, also known as Isis, last month.

A study last week by the Combating Terrorism Center, a research and policy institution at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, found that the 11,000 leaked files contained 4,600 individual records. It was able to corroborate 98 per cent of the files by cross-referencing the haul against a repository of Islamic State records held by its department of defence.

New recruits

The fighters came from more than 70 countries, with Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt making up the top five countries of origin. France was the highest-ranking western state, with 49 new recruits listed as having come from there, but also high on the list were Albania (42), Germany (38), Kosovo (32), the UK (26) and Belgium (9). Only one recruit – al Muhajir – listed Ireland as his country of residence. At 43, he was considerably older than the average recruit, who was 26-27 years old.

Irish authorities believe about 30 people have travelled from Ireland to Syria and Iraq in the past six years and that five of them have died. However, not all are known to have aligned themselves with jihadi or other rebel groups.

Risk management

Hisham Habbash (29), who was from Libya but grew up in Ireland, was killed fighting in Syria in June 2013. In late April, 2013, Jordanian-born Alaa Ciymeh (26), who grew up in Dublin, was killed in Syria. In February of that year Libyan-born Shamseddin Gaidan (16) from Navan was killed after he went to Syria without his parents’ permission.

Egyptian-born Hudhaifa El Sayed (22), from Drogheda, was shot dead by regime forces in Syria in December 2012.

Asked what procedures were in place to monitor suspected fighters who returned to Ireland from Syria and Iraq, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “It is the policy of the police and intelligence services to intervene with individuals known to have returned from conflict zones from a risk management perspective.”

The spokesman could not clarify what this meant, saying: “The method of intervention would be an operational matter for the gardaí.”

In 2014, The Irish Times reported that the US National Security Agency had passed on to Irish authorities information about suspected jihadi fighters it believed were resident in Ireland or had travelled through the State en route to conflict zones. The information, which was based on communication intercepted by the NSA, resulted in increased Garda surveillance.

There are no reliable figures on the number of foreigner fighters in Islamic State.